Interview with Will O'Neill - Actual Sunlight
We’re working on a review for Actual Sunlight which will go live on Tuesday when the game launches, but for now you can read more about the game in our interview with game creator Will O’Neill. Enjoy!
PS4B: Welcome! Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Can you please get things going by introducing yourself to our readers?
Thanks! My name is Will O’Neill, and I’m a writer and narrative designer and the developer and creator of Actual Sunlight.
PS4B: OK, let’s get right to it then. You’ve done a lot of hard work on bringing Actual Sunlight to the PlayStation Vita after releasing it on PC last year. What can you tell us about this game?
Actual Sunlight is a short interactive story about love, depression and the corporation. It’s about three different periods in the life of the main character, Evan Winter. In the game, you control Evan and walk in his shoes, learning more about his thoughts and meeting the people around him. You deal with things like video game addiction, an unsatisfying job, difficult relationships, and more.
It’s a very bleak, very text-heavy game that you probably won’t want to play more than once, but I think it’s a pretty special experience…!
PS4B: How would you classify Actual Sunlight? What genre would it fit in?
For the sake of the Vita audience, probably the closest analog to it would be the visual novel. The gameplay is fairly minimal, and most of what you experience is just reading and then reading some more. The art and sound it does have, though, really does a lot to add to the mood and environment of the game in a way that I think sharply augments the writing.
PS4B: Where there any problems you ran into when porting Actual sunlight to Sony’s portable? Also, what made you think of the Vita as a good fit for the game?
I really wanted to make it a great experience for the Vita, so doing things like increasing the text size and making sure the main character remained strongly in the foreground at all times was essential. I’ve also added a bit of text that appears at the top of the screen when you’re nearby something you can interact with – this should make it a lot more straightforward for people to ensure that they check everything out. The trophies depend on it…!
I felt like the Vita was a good fit because of how receptive the Vita audience has been to not only visual novels, but unique and interesting games as a whole. Also, the presence of so much reading means that playing it on the go can make it a little bit like reading a regular e-Book!
PS4B: What many of our readers will probably wonder is, considering that Actual Sunlight is very much autobiographical, if you made it as some sort of therapy to “eradicate” some personal demons, or if it just happened to be what you wanted to make in order to stimulate and motivate people into feeling and think as they experience a video game?
I wouldn’t say that I made it to eradicate personal demons so much as acknowledge them. Completely and fully for what they are. I think the truth deserves to be confronted, and I don’t think the ‘Hollywood’ narrative of a guy like Evan Winter would be as truthful as it ought to be. I wanted to come from a place that was honest.
PS4B: Was the game’s length something you tried to control from the moment you started to make Actual Sunlight in order to have a short and linear experience, or was it something that just “clicked” and felt right as you worked on the project?
Definitely something that worked! All good writing – and creative development of any kind, I might add – benefits from good editing. A substantial amount of stuff was cut from Actual Sunlight to ensure it would be a tight, sharp experience, but I think it’s better for it. I know some players are obsessed with length as a barometer of quality and value in games – believe me when I say that this Actual Sunlight is a lot better than the one that was a lot longer…!
PS4B: What are you currently working on? Will this project be PC only or are you also considering a console release?
My next project is a contemporary adventure game about debt, family and the truth about honesty entitled Little Red Lie. and you can learn more at http://www.littleredlie.com. I’ve also just finished writing for Planet of the Eyes (http://www.planetoftheeyes.com) and a for-now secret project that is a spiritual sequel to a game published by Devolver. More on that real soon.
Barring any kind of huge interest elsewhere, this is the end of the line for Actual Sunlight, I think. The Vita release will be its final platform.
PS4B: And now our time is up. Would you like to add anything else before we go?
Thanks very much to PS4Blog.net for the interview, and thanks to your readers for checking it out! I hope everyone will pick up Actual Sunlight, find a quiet place to sit down, and go through it with an open mind. I don’t think a game quite like it has ever been released for a console, and I hope Vita players will feel the same.